love: chapter one
January 8th, 2009
One year ago tomorrow, at 3 in the afternoon, the phone rang and changed our lives. I had just returned from lunch with Lorraine, sharing one of my very favorite things in the world…pink butter on yeasty rolls at Neiman Marcus Cafe. I had put the phone squarely on the table, apologizing for the rudeness of it all but explaining that the phone might ring and change my life.
“Amy, we have an 11-month baby who needs care. He has a broken arm. We’ll need you to get him tonight. What do you think?”
“Let me call Rich”
“Rich, I just got the call. It’s a little baby with a broken arm.”
Me, calling back the agency… “Okay”
I hung up the phone and immediately left for Target to buy anything and everything I thought we might need for the first few nights. Pajamas, diapers…but what size??? Car seat…”Excuse me, can a 11-month baby use this car seat? Do you have a baby? What kind of car seat do you like? Are these 20 car seats the only ones they have here?” Sippy cups, bottles. Baby cereal…surely he eats baby cereal. Don’t they all?
The bill comes to something like $700. It doesn’t matter. I was in and out in less than an hour.
Rich comes home and we meet at the agency’s office. But now we have to go to the hospital in D.C. to pick him up. The car seat is still in the box and we don’t have a clue about how to fix it in the car.
We get lost…two social workers, Rich, me, and the car seat, on the way to pick up the baby.
When we finally arrive to the hospital, we rush up to the room. My heart is beating so fast.
And then we get to his room. The CPS worker and a hospital social worker are there talking. And there he is, sitting in a cage-like crib, looking around like a scared little bird.
My very first thought when I saw him was “Oh my goodness, look at all that hair!”
He looked so scared.
“Can I hold him?”
“Yes, of course”
Then we noticed that he was trying to tell us something. “G…g” We asked the others. No, they said, he doesn’t talk. Still, he insisted “G….g” “G…g” Everytime we looked at his face, he said it.
Finally, we realized it. He was hungry. Starving, really. Hours had past, it was 11 pm before we finally got the discharge papers.
I remember holding him and feeding him a bottle thinking “How in the world do people do this?” The muscles in my arms started burning and I realized that I couldn’t possibly hold him and walk and feed him at the same time.
I think it took a whole hour for the social workers and Rich to put the car seat in the car. And when they finally did, the social worker driving, first week on the job, backs her new car into a pillar in the parking garage. “Everybody be quiet” she says. The baby, so scared and wearing just a hospital gown in January, is wailing.
We got home after midnight.
And in the midst of all of that, we fell in love. Our little bird with a broken wing, so scared and sweet. We fell in love that night.